Take Care Of The Twinge

Learn to troubleshoot a minor pain before it becomes a full-blown injury


Posted: 14 June 2010
by Selene Yeager

As you begin logging more bike miles, aches and pains can start cropping up. The usual culprits are poor riding position, imbalanced muscles, a weak core or just another birthday.
"With new riders, you can usually blame poor bike fit or equipment setup, or a training error," says Andy Pruitt, author of Andy Pruitt's Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists. If you're a seasoned triathlete, the culprit is generally wear and tear. Your body has grown accustomed to your bike setup and training over the years, then suddenly you develop pain.
The following tips will help deal with general aches and pains, but see a GP if you have any concerns.

Hip

WHAT AND WHY Pushing excessively high gears can wreak havoc on your hips, as can tight muscles and weak glutes.
FIX Gear back and increase your cadence to take pressure off your hips. Follow the glute-strengthening advice in Knee (below). Do yoga poses such as the pigeon, where one leg is bent 90 degrees in front of you, flat on the floor, and the other is extended behind you, thigh to the floor.

Knee

WHAT AND WHY Sore knees are usually a result of incorrect saddle and/or cleat position, weak outer glutes and doing too much too soon, especially in a big gear.
FIX Generally, if the pain is in the front of your knee, your saddle is too low. Pain in the back of your knee means your saddle is too high. Spin in an easier gear and strengthen your outer glutes with lateral leg exercises like side lunges and side leg raises. Stretch your quads, iliotibial bands and hamstrings. Get a professional bike fit.

Foot

WHAT AND WHY You experience hot spots, pain under the ball of your foot or numb toes when pressure is concentrated on one part of your sole, squeezing the nerves between your foot bones. Hot spots can happen to longtime triathletes who've never had such pain because the fat pads in our feet shrink over time, leaving the nerves less protected, says Pruitt.
FIX For numbness, loosen your shoes.
If they're already loose, try a wider shoe. For burning, slide your cleats all the way back, switch to shoes with a stiffer sole or try wider-platform pedals. "Change your foot beds regularly, says Pruitt. "Change them once a year if you ride 5,000 miles or less; more often if you put in higher mileage."

Back

WHAT AND WHY Fatigue, age-related wear and tear, poor bike fit and a weak core can cause pain and strain.
FIX Perform plank exercises to strengthen your core. Stretch your hamstrings. Check your bike fit to see that you're not overreaching (see Neck, below), keeping in mind that over the years you may need to tweak your riding position to compensate for decreased flexibility.

Hand

WHAT AND WHY Excess pressure on the nerves in your hand can cause numb, tingly fingers and pain in your wrists. Also, you may have too much weight on your hands or have your wrists cocked at an extreme angle.
FIX Wear lightly padded gloves. Hold the bar with your wrists in a neutral position (as when you shake someone's hand). Check that the nose of your saddle isn't tipped down, shifting your weight too far forward and onto your hands.

Neck

WHAT AND WHY Overreaching causes tension in your shoulders and upper back.
FIX When you look at the front wheel with your hands on the hoods, your bar should obstruct your view of the hub. Relax your shoulders when you ride.

Ankle

WHAT AND WHY Pain in the back
of your ankle is a symptom of Achilles tendonitis, generally brought on by doing
too much too soon. Having your cleats too far forward, which makes you pedal on your toes, can also strain the Achilles tendon.
FIX Ice the area and use anti-inflammatories. Stretch by placing the ball of your foot on
a step and letting your heel hang off the edge. Hold for 20 seconds. Also, move
your cleats back.


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